Author Feature-Bryan Mealer


Spirit of Texas Reading Program

Middle School

Featured Author

Bryan Mealer

Bryan Mealer

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Bryan Mealer is the author of Muck City and the New York Times bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which he wrote with William Kamkwamba. Since publication, the book has received many honors and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Mealer is also the author of All Things Must Fight to Live, which chronicled his years covering the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo for Harper's and the Associated Press. His fourth book – a memoir about his family's long history with the Texas oil patch – will be published by Flatiron Books in 2017. He and his family live in Austin, where he contributes to Texas Monthly.


Find him on the web:




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Book Trailer


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Book Quiz

Printable Copy

  1. What does ganyu mean?  
    1. mush  
    2. laziness  
    3. day labor  
    4. wind power
  2. Where was William Kamkwamba born and raised? 
    1. Zambia  
    2. Mozambique  
    3. Tanzania  
    4. Malawi
  3. Why did William leave school? 
    1. He was bored. 
    2. He tested out. 
    3. He did not have the money to pay the tuition. 
    4. He did not like school.
  4. What happened to Khamba? 
    1. He ran away. 
    2. He was tied to a tree and died from starvation. 
    3. He was eaten by wild dogs. 
    4. He was picked up by a traveling merchant.
  5. What was the first thing William showed the students could be charged by windmill?  
    1. radio  
    2. mobile phones 
    3. stove 
    4. light
  6. When did William see the internet for the first time? 
    1. his village store 
    2. his elementary school 
    3. his high school 
    4. TED conference
  7.  Malawi is often called  
    1. The hottest place on earth  
    2. The warm heart of Africa 
    3. The poorest town of Africa 
    4. The feet and hands of Africa
  8. What kind of current does William's windmill use? 
    1. Direct current  
    2. Reverse current  
    3. Circular current  
    4. Alternating current
  9. What crop was William's family most dependent on?  
    1. Barley  
    2. Maize   
    3. Sugar cane  
    4. Sorghum
  10. Which of William's ventures was NOT successful?  
    1. Water pump  
    2. Dynamo  
    3. Radio station 
    4. Windmill



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Academic Programs 

Printable Copy

Power It Up

Introduction/Purpose of Program

Participants will choose different fruits or vegetables to power up a battery which emulates the process that William went through in his inventions.


  • 6.8Force, motion, and energy. The student knows force and motion are related to potential and kinetic energy. The student is expected to:
    •  6.8Acompare and contrast potential and kinetic energy
  • 6.9Force, motion, and energy. The student knows that the Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it just changes form. The student is expected to:
    • 6.9Cdemonstrate energy transformations such as energy in a flashlight battery changes from chemical energy to electrical energy to light energy

Process Skills TEKS:

  • 2Aplan and implement comparative and descriptive investigations by making observations, asking well-defined questions, and using appropriate equipment and technology;
  • 3AIn all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and logical testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student
  • 3DRelate the impact of research on scientific thought and society, including the history of science and contributions of scientists as related to the content

Detailed Description of the Program

William spends a lot of time with his friends trying to get power using various items. In this program, participants will explore different materials which will make a battery. They will learn the different components of a battery and how to substitute materials for those necessary components.

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk

  • EXPLORE ELECTRICITY!: WITH 25 GREAT PROJECTS (Explore Your World) by Carmella Van Vleet and Bryan Stone
  • Make: Electronics: Learning Through Discovery by Charles Platt
  • Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things by Cy Tymony
  • Still Turning: A History of Aermotor Windmills by Christopher C. Gillis
  • Windmills and Wind Motors: How to Build and Run Them by F.E. Powell
  • The World's Oddest Inventions by Nadia Higgins
  • 100 Inventions that Made History: Brilliant Breakthroughs that Shaped our World by Tracey Turner

List of Supplies

  • 18-gauge copper wire (smaller gauge will work too, but 18-gauge is stiffer)
  • Wire clippers
  • Steel paper clip (Some people find that a 2-inch strip of zinc works better)
  • Sheet of coarse sandpaper
  • Lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes
  • Plates
  • Pennies
  • Galvanized Nails
  • Digital clock



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Active Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Supplemental Documents

Book Binding Instructions

Flyer Document

Flyer Image

Story Template

Windmill Image

Tell Your Story

Introduction/Purpose of Program

Bryan Mealer and William Kamkamba collaborated to tell an amazing story about William's life and accomplishments. The purpose of this program is to give participants the opportunity to discuss The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind in depth and to experience using a coauthor to tell their own stories.

Detailed Description of the Program

This program consists of four activities: (A) Book Club, (B) Write Your Story, (C) Photography Workshop, (D) Bookbinding Workshop.

(A) Book Club

The book clubs can be directed just towards middle grade readers of the Young Readers Edition, or they can be expanded to involve the entire family, especially by including the original edition and/or picture book version. Questions should be adapted depending on the ages of the participants. Discussion resources have been included at the end of this section.

Because the differences in resources available to various libraries, we are presented a few different options for engaging in book discussion.

Option #1 – Traditional: Libraries with the necessary staff time and space can hold a weekly book club for one month. Divide the book into sections that will be discussed at each book club meeting (A. Prologue-Chapter . The club should be scheduled at a time that makes it convenient for the targeted ages (after-school hours for middle graders or evenings for the whole family). A member of library staff should be present to lead the book discussion and keep the conversation on track. Comfortable seating, snacks, and an extra copy of the book to reference if needed are good additions if possible.

Tips for encouraging a good book discussion:

Option #2 – Online: Libraries who can dedicate the staff time, but don't have physical space can create an online book club. Libraries can use existing Facebook or blog accounts to host the book club. Wordpress is a good option for libraries that do not have an existing blog. A staff person should moderate the discussion and ensure that participants are using good "netiquette." Because most blog and social media platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, this option would best be directed towards the entire family so that parents and middle graders can participate together.

Netiquette tips:

Option #3 – Self-Directed: For those libraries short on time and space, you can set up a dry erase board or a large easel pad to have an ongoing and self-directed book discussion. To get started write a discussion question(s) on the board and provide a pen or marker for library patrons to add their comments and thoughts. Encourage the entire library staff to read the book and participate in the discussion. Write new questions as the conversation slows or drifts off-topic.

Sample Reading Schedule (based on the Young Readers Edition):

    • Week 1: Prologue – Chapter 3
    • Week 2: Chapter 4 – Chapter 8
    • Week 3: Chapter 9 – Chapter 11
    • Week 4: Chapter 12 - Epilogue

Discussion Question References:

(B) Write Your Story (coauthor session):

Activity length: 1-2 hours

Supplies: Paper, pencils

If the program is targeted just at middle graders, assign partners (if there is an odd number, create one group of 3). If families are participating, parents can team up with their child. Assign one participant to be the storyteller and one to be the writer. Each pair will need paper and pencils.

Together, the storyteller and writer will agree on an interesting experience from the storyteller's life. The stories should be kept short. If it takes longer than 5-10 minutes to tell, it is probably too long for this activity. Stories should include a main character, setting, and plot (conflict, rising action, climax, and resolution). You can give participants the included story template for taking notes.

The writer will take notes as the storyteller recounts her experience. Then, the pair will work together to turn those notes and form them into a written story.

Most importantly, remind participants that this activity is for fun! It won't be graded and no one else will read it but them, unless they want to share.

(C) Photography Workshop:

Activity Length: 1-2 hours

Optional equipment: Laptop, projector, screen

The first step to this activity is to find a local photographer willing to run the workshop for free. It is usually not too difficult to find someone local, but the Professional Photographers of America does have a searchable database: You may want to find a family or senior portrait photographer who is used to working with children and teenagers. Another possible presenter option is a journalism or yearbook teacher from local high schools.

Ideally, your presenter will create his or her own outline for the workshop. However, if they ask you what information you would like them to cover, you can suggest how to hold a camera, composition (rule of thirds, cropping, perspective), and/or lighting. Let your presenter know what kind of equipment you have available for their presentation (projector, etc.). They may like to create a PowerPoint presentation if you can provide the equipment to display it.

When advertising, remind attendees to bring their own cameras (smart phones work in a pinch). If time allows, let the participants wander the library for a few minutes taking photos using their new knowledge. Depending on the size of the group, the presenter can take a look at some of the participants' photos and give feedback.

Encourage the participants to use the skills they have learned to create illustrations or photographs for the stories they wrote at the Coauthor Session.

(D) Bookbinding Workshop:

Activity length: 1.5 hours

Supplies: 12"x12" cardstock, 8.5"x11" copy paper, scissors, rulers, Small sponge brushes, pencils, bone folder, medium binder clips, school glue, decorative tape (optional).

For this activity, participants will create a book that they can use to record and illustrate the story they wrote at the Coauthor Session.

Each participant should have a chair and table space to work. Although some supplies can be shared, it is most convenient if you have enough supplies for each participant.

See the included bookbinding handout for activity instructions.

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk

  • I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai , with Patricia McCormick
  • The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation): The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown
  • National Geographic Kids Guide to Photography: Tips & Tricks on How to Be a Great Photographer From the Pros & Your Pals at My Shot by Nancy Honovich and Annie Griffiths
  • Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook by Ellen Potter and Anne Mazer
  • Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke
  • Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carsen Levine
  • Making Books with Kids: 25 Paper Projects to Fold, Sew, Paste, Pop, and Draw by Esther K. Kim

List of Supplies

  • Snacks (chips, crackers, cookies, water bottles, etc.)
  • Easel Pad or a White Board
  • Pens or dry erase markers
  • Copy paper
  • Pencils
  • Laptop (optional)
  • Projector (optional)
  • Screen (optional)
  • Cardstock (12"x12")
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
  • Small sponge brushes
  • Bone folders
  • Medium binder clips
  • School glue
  • Decorative tape (optional)

Resources (print and electronic)

Professional Resources (for librarian and teacher use)


Program Flyers, Posters, Advertisements, Bulletin Board Ideas, Templates, Rubrics, etc.

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Passive Programs 

Printable Copy

Do you want to move a robot?

Brief Description

In this biography, William learns how to get power for his house and ultimately his village through his scientific experiments. This program will allow patrons the opportunity to move robots through online coding and through building simple robots.

Detailed Description of the Program

This program has two choices. One component is technology based, and the other is physical materials based. Each of the choices allows participants to make a robot move around a given area.

The first choice is derived from the hour of code website which has different activities that help participants learn coding. The two activities for this program allow participants to get a robot to perform tasks based on lines of code. One activity walks participants through a tutorial to create a game based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The second activity allows participants to light up boxes using just a certain number of commands. Lightbot is a fun activity that allows for creativity thinking in much the same way that William and his friends were creative with the materials they found in their village.

Star Wars:


The second program allows participants to make a simple robot from various materials. William used materials that he was able to find from varied places. Participants will be able to make a wigglebot from a small number of supplies.

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk

  • Could a robot make my dinner? And other questions about technology by Kay Barnham
  • Data Science from Scratch: First Principles with Python by Joel Grus
  • Getting to Know Scratch by Jeanne Nagel
  • Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math by Majed Marji
  • Robot Builder: The Beginner's Guide to Building Robots by John Baichtal
  • Robot Building for Beginners, 2nd Edition by David Cook
  • Robot Building for Teens by Behnam Salemi
  • Understanding coding with Minecraft by Patricia Harris
  • What is computer coding? By Mary Pratt 

List of Supplies

For the first activity, you will need a device that has internet access to be able to perform these tasks. The two websites are listed below for easy access.

For the second activity, there are two different variations of the wigglebot.

The first version of the wigglebot is made from the following materials.

  • Four small springs from ballpoint pens
  • Four small cardboard squares
  • A piece of plastic about 2.5" by 5"
  • The motor and battery case from a small personal fan from the dollar store
  • Adhesive to hold it all together 

All instructions for building this wigglebot can be found at:

The second version of the wigglebot is made from the following materials.

  • Disposable cup
  • Electric tape
  • 3 Markers
  • 2 AAA batteries
  • Battery holder
  • 1.5-3 volt DC motor
  • Clothespin
  • Popsicle stick
  • Scissors
  • Glue

All instructions for this wigglebot can be found at:


Participants who complete the hour of code activities will earn a certificate. Participants who complete the wigglebot can take the project home for further exploration.


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Created on Apr 1, 2016 | Last updated April 17, 2016